He's called many things, folk hero, Dutch Gretzky, but what Dale Weise might be is the unlikeliest character in a great story. Weise is a weird player, there can be no doubt about that. For most of his career Weise has been pigeonholed into fourth line roles, where he doesn't really fit, because he's not really that physical, and he's not great defensively. Weise fashions himself as a skilled player, but he isn't really that skilled, and doesn't fit into the top-six either.
It's that odd place many skilled American Hockey League players experience, they're good enough to be stars in that league, but they're missing something in the NHL. Yet Weise, whether it's through sheer will, likeability, or good fortune, has carved himself out a place on not just any NHL team, but a good one.
How Weise has done it is in no small part due to performances like what he did against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night. Facing down a red hot Craig Anderson, the Montreal Canadiens were firing everything at the net, but couldn't get anything to go. Anderson was giving up some rebounds, and the Habs were even gobbling them up for second chances, they just kept missing the net. Yet when a Brandon Prust shot bounced off Anderson, it was Weise with the presence of mind to calmly glove the puck down and snap it into the net.
In overtime, Weise scored a goal that likely made Michel Therrien's heart swell with pride, as Alexei Emelin whipped a puck off the glass and out of the Montreal zone, which Torrey Mitchell deftly passed to a skating Weise. Streaking in on the left side, Weise pulled up to lose Patrick Wiercioch's check, and fired a short side laser through Anderson and in.
It hasn't all been timely goals for Weise in the playoffs either. Through three games, the Canadiens have 59.7% of the shot attempts while Weise is on the ice at even strength. That isn't just good, it's flat out stellar. You could make the argument that Lars Eller carried Weise a bit possession-wise in the first couple games, but they played on separate lines for most of game three, and it looked to me like Weise was the straw stirring the drink on the fourth line.
It's a fantastic story, and one that doesn't look to be ending any time soon.
Hits, hits, and more hits
The Senators were up against it in game three, a loss meant a near-100% chance of elimination, and they played like it in the first period. Hitting everything in sight, all you could see media people talking about on social media was how big these hits would be in the result of the game. Physical domination, setting the tone, grinding the Habs players into submission, it's a great narrative, but it doesn't hold out.
One specific player who was getting heaps of praise for big hits was Erik Karlsson, who laid the biggest hit of the game on Nathan Beaulieu, and may have injured the young Habs defenseman in the process. In the second intermission, I mentioned that if Karlsson was busy focusing on hits instead of getting shots or making plays on the puck, Montreal was better off.
It got a few laughs from the usual suspects, yet Karlsson ended up being a non-factor late in the game, the Senators were outchanced with him on the ice, and he had a worse shot attempt differential than Eric Gryba. After a dominant first period where the Senators led in even strength shot attempts 26-11, the Canadiens led the rest of the game 58-27.
While Hockey Night in Canada was romanticizing the Senators' 61 hit performance, the Canadiens were hammering the Senators in their own zone and winning the game, and now they have complete control heading into Wednesday night in Ottawa.